“How Can I Get A US Visa?”
Are you from Europe? Australia? The UK? Canada? Or anywhere else outside of The United States of America and you would like to live and work here? Well, you are definitely one of many.
The US is known to be the country where your dreams can come true. Especially big metropolitan cities such as New York City and of course Los Angeles are filled with tourists, immigrants and foreigners in general from all over the world. And they all have one goal, to be able to live and work in the city of their dreams. The question is always the same: “How can I get a visa/ work permit/ Green Card?”
Because every case and person is so completely different, I can’t go into detail on every visa I know about, but I am going to give you a very rough breakdown of possible visas you can get, what they’re good for and how you can apply for them. If you’d like to know more specific details regarding your unique case, contact me so we can set up a Skype Consultation or personal meeting in the L.A. area.
0-1 Artist Visa (3 years)
“The 0-1B Artist Visa is made for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.”
The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) are the ones making the final decision and of course they need to see (lots of) proof and evidence that you’ve worked on many national and/or international highly recognized Movies, TV Shows, commercials or any other medium in motion picture.
I have to say, that when I first read about the “Evidentiary Criteria for 0-1B”, I literally said to myself: “This is impossible. Do I look like I’ve won an Academy Award?!” I’m sure most people react in a similar way. What I’m saying is, don’t get discouraged by reading the scary qualifications they require from you and thinking you will never ever get it. I once thought that too, until I changed my mind set and now I’m here in L.A. on an 01. Of course, it’s not that easy. It’s actually really hard and it took me one full year of DAILY work on all the visa filing and papers. So you have to want it really badly.
Here is the official USCIS link with all the details about the process of the 01 Artist Visa: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/o-1-visa-individuals-extraordinary-ability-or-achievement
Here in my own words, all the major things you need in order to qualify for an 01 Artist Visa (for 3 years):
- Attorney/Lawyer that specializes in “Entertainment Visas”
- Sponsor/ Petitioner (“Agent” aka your employer) – Form I-129
- Recommendation/ Reference Letters from successful Industry people you worked with (10+)
- Deal Memos lined up for 3 years (job contracts through your Sponsor or other employers)
- Proof of (high) Payment/ Salary (pay check) from past Acting Jobs
- Proof of Credits in (successful) Movie Project
- Newspaper and Press Articles about “you aka extraordinary actor…” (English Translation)
- Award/ Recognition, Nomination at Film Festivals etc.
- Certificates, Diplomas and/or Degrees from Acting Schools etc.
- Professional Website, IMDb Credits
- Call sheets, Shooting schedules, contracts etc. from past projects
- Commercials, TV Show Part, Lead Role in Feature Films
- Photography: Behind-The-Scenes/ On-Set photos, Professional Headshots, Red Carpet/ VIP Event Photos, You with Celebrities/ famous Industry people etc.
- Advisory Opinion letters from AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA
These are all examples of things that either are a must-have or they will simply help you a lot with the whole 01 visa process.
Now, of course you have hundreds of questions, trust me I’ve been there, I asked my lawyer at least one question per day for one year straight. Because SO many things will come up during this process of getting everything together and things won’t always work out the way you were hoping for them to work out, but also good things (miracles!) will happen that you didn’t expect. If there’s NO other option for you (than Acting in L.A. and that’s it), then you’re on the right path and you will give your all until you have it. That’s how I was.
So wherever you are on your journey right now, I can probably help you to make one step forward. It’s always just one step at a time, otherwise it will be way too overwhelming and you will just want to throw everything away and give up. So keep positive and keep going! You Can Do It!
All other visas are SO MUCH simpler than the 01, but of course they are for a much shorter stay and most of all you can’t work, and that’s what sucks.
But for the ones of you that are not quite ready yet with their whole 01 package, here are your temporary options:
M-1 Student Visa (Acting School)
This is a student visa for vocational (a post-secondary educational institution) and technical schools. It’s most of the time “Creative Art” schools such as Acting, Singing, Dancing, Musical etc. These type visas usually last for however long the school program lasts that you signed up for, plus additionally 30 days prior to the start of the program and 30 days longer after you finish the program. It requires you to fill out an I-20 Form. There’s some specific rules, such as the minimum amount of (usually) 24 hours per week that you have to be present in class, in order for the visa to be legitimate.
If you’d like to attend an acting school in L.A., but for longer than 3 months (as a tourist), the M-1 visa would be perfect. There’s several schools that offer programs specifically for International Students, in order for them to stay in L.A. for approximately a year or more and really go in depth with their acting training. One of them is www.theactingcorps.com the school I attended a few years back. The lovely office people will help you with all your questions and make sure the process of getting your paperwork ready and done will be as smooth as possible. This is especially a great school for foreigners and beginner actors. Visit their website or contact me for more details about the school or my personal experience with the 9 months professional program.
My tip is to simply google “Los Angeles Acting School International Students” and you will find a few options, check out the website/programs and contact them for maybe the possibility of auditing a class.
F-1 Student Visa (Language School)
All F visas are a type of non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education in the US, but compared to the M-1, this one is not for “vocational schools” but instead for academic studies and/or language training programs in the US. This was my very first visa I ever got, because I went to a language school for a month over the summer. You only need it if you are taking a course that is 24 hours per week or more (double check with the office of your school). You can fill in a Form DS-160 online for $160 application fee. Again, communicate with the administration department of the school you chose, they will know all the details, since visas are part of their daily work routine.
This visa is great, if you want to get a feel for the “Los Angeles Lifestyle” and have never been here or maybe are still working on perfecting your English. You can take some classes at an English language school and at the same time maybe audit some acting classes in the evening. You don’t need a specific visa to audit and/or take a couple classes (see tourist visa below), only if it’s a “full-time” week at a school you will need one. BUT again, this is just my experience and the way it was for me, so please always research facts yourself and make sure with the school what their exact rules are and what type of visas the provide and recommend! They will also know best about the current immigration law, since it can always change over the years!
B-1/ B-2 Visa (Business/ Tourism for Multiple Entry Purposes)
B visas are Business Type visas and there’s a difference between the two: The B-1 Visa is for those who are seeking entry for business purposes and the B-2 for those coming to the US for tourism and NON-business purposes. Neither of these are work permits. They simply allow you to stay longer in the US plus they usually have the advantage of the “multiple-entry” right, which means for example the embassy can give you a stamp that is valid between 1 and 10 years and gives you the chance of multiple-entry stays for a maximum of 6 months. So every 6 months you had to leave the country again, but can come back after a “reasonable” time, let’s say after 3 or 6 months again – it’s a constant back and forth. But be careful with those type visas and remember they have everything in their system when you cross the border at the airport and if you’ve been back and forth a little too many times they might question you and make it hard for you to enter the US the next time. You don’t want to risk any of that.
This visa often is a combination of the two and will be issued as a “B-1/B-2 visa” for a temporary visit of Business and Pleasure. You as well fill out the form DS-160 for an application fee of $160 online. Some people say there’s a lot of luck involved in getting this type visa (or any other visa). On the day of your embassy interview appointment (after filling out the forms online), simply ask if you can have a multiple-entry visa and give your justifiable and proper reasons. Good luck!
Tourist Visa Waiver (90 Days)
The Tourist Visa Waiver is by far the most simple and easiest way to enter the US. It’s called the visa waiver program, because it does NOT require you to get a visa (hence the word “waiver”). All you need is a valid passport to travel and you have to purchase an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) prior to travel, which you can buy online for currently $14 under this link: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta it’s a very easy process.
Remember this Non-Visa is only for traveling the US for a maximum of 90 days, I don’t recommend over-staying even if it’s just for a day. Always be super careful with the government and immigration rules in the US. You can of course still audit a class, explore and visit a few acting schools to see which ones you might like for a potential student visa in the future. One Step at a Time.
Green Card For Extraordinary Artists
Believe it or not, it is also possible to apply for a Permanent Resident Green Card in the same way you can apply for an 01 Artist Visa. The process is very similar, it depends a lot on the lawyer you will hire, who is going to take on your case and what they consider your chances to be.
A dear Swiss Actress friend of mine, Deborah Meister, can help you with this matter, if you’re interested in applying for a Green Card as an “Extraordinary Artist”. She especially focuses on Actors and Singers from Europe. Here is her website: http://www.usactingconsulting.com/ – contact her if you have any questions and you can schedule a Skype Session with her (details on her page).
Green Card Lottery (October every year)
Last but not least: The Green Card Lottery. It’s each October, once a year usually between October 1st and November 3rd you can apply for the Lottery. AND IT’S ALL FOR FREE, NO CHARGE. I’m saying this because there is hundreds of spam websites out there that look completely legit and promise you to have a better chance if you pay $50 or what not. It’s all bullshit. I have so many friends that fell for it. There’s only ONE official website and that’s the U.S. Department of State Website: https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/
Now this option is only pure luck. Try it, there’s nothing you can lose, but don’t rely on it. If you really want to live, study or even work in the US, get your game on and start researching and working hard on what is the best way for you to do it. But remember one step at a time.
I’m looking forward to hearing from you and wishing you all the best on your journey to Los Angeles!